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I wonder if animals have an actual sense of right and wrong. It may not be in line with the human sense of right and wrong but wonder if concepts like honor, respect and justice exist elsewhere in the animal kingdom. Or is it really just cause and effect, instinct and a lot of human anthropomorphizing.

ScienceBiker 8 Apr 15

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7

LMBO at cucumber throwing Capuchins. My son would do the same thing.
Thought provoking question right up my alley of interest but I'm a little rusty.
I had primatology as an Anthropology undergrad. I've always loved animals and been keen on ethology.
In general, I believe we've given modern humans too much credit. Originally being a tool maker made Homo Habilis more advanced and Neanderthals were believed not to be very intelligent and merely to have died off. Today we know they made tools, probably used fire and interbred with what we thought to be modern species. Many of our genes carry Neanderthal DNA
Instinct in humans? Whatever's left has been manually over ridden so many times that it's not of much use. Am I hungry? I don't know. What time is it? How can we separate instinct from reason?
Back to "animals". The ones surrounding me have been taught to behave in their interactions with me. Why do they do things for each other? Do they expect favors in kind? Do they have morals? How do they interact with each other? What about the grieving elephants, chimpanzees, even the lions who protected the girl who was under attack by boys (need to look it up for details)?
Barbara King makes some good arguments. In one blog she discusses seeing a species of animals as individuals in their behaviors, not stereotyping a whole species. Much like we are educated to view people.
Lucky for you it's now time to feed my horse Lorenzo and dogs Grit and Fudge. I'll stop my run on brain and leave you with a video of a mother and son chimp.

I like the bit about not generalizing a species too much.

Barb? WTH are you saying? (I just reread it).
I think in that bunch of run on sentences I meant to say we have habitually underestimated everything
and everyone we think is intellectually beneath us. There is much more to animal communication and understanding than we realize. We need to figure out how to measure it.

@Archer I don't feel the need to measure it. Just a little respect. I don't think we can measure it. They seem to be smart in ways we never developed. Like dolphin sonar, we have no idea what that's like, maybe it's like 3d speech, we know it's 3d perception. There may be no way to relate to it, yet I think we should try at least a little, just a sign of appreciation for our fellow creatures.

@Mortal I don't exactly mean measure like IQ tests. Measure like learn from them and gain knowledge and understanding of them. Preferably that can be applied to help them or preserve them if needed.

6

given that humans are a type of animal, i would venture to say yes. as far as non human animals, i have seen and read about things that would suggest that they do show certain levels of emotion and in some cases a cognative ability once thought to be a human trait. the first thing i remember that got me thinking on this subject, was when my female doggo was injured. she was given pain pills in cheese and i figured it would only be fair to give my male doggo a piece of cheese as well. he was known for being greedy. he used to push her out of the way and steal her food then go eat his. but on this particular day, when i gave him his piece of cheese, he walked over to her, dropped it in front of her, and when she didnt move to take it, he nudged it closer. he let her eat his cheese. then he curled up with her(which wasnt common unless it was cold) and stayed with her pretty much until she was healed. he would go to pee or something, but never very far. it got me thinking about how much we really understand critters. i guess thats not exactly a right or wrong situation, but your question made me think of it.

Byrd Level 7 Apr 15, 2018
6

I wouldn't say all animals. Some are higher in intelligence like Chimps and Monkey's. But they all have the feeling of love. And some even have the feeling of jealousy. Dogs know how to manipulate. So I guess there is some identity of knowledge of wrong doing to get what they need. But it may not be noticed in the wild except for other animals like them.

Cats do too. And they've just proven cats have more sounds to make us do what they want then dogs! lol

@RavenCT I wasn't sure of cats. I have a cat/dog he acts so much like a dog... thanks for clarifying that for me. Awesome

4

You should do some research on wild wolves. They have very strict rules that must be followed. The Alpha male and Alpha female are the only ones allowed to mate, and they mate for life. When the Alpha male dies, the rest of the pack will mourn for about 6 months and won't hunt in his favorite hunting grounds.

From looking into the lives of wild wolves, I would have to say YES! Animals have a code of ethics. They know right from wrong, probably better than a lot of people.

4

The higher mammals do have crude morals yes, and that has been known for a long time. not sure about honor, but for fairness and justice, yes. Respect often partly comes from fear of the alpha male or alpha female and acording to age in each group. So he really smart animals like dolphins, crows, octopuses, apes and monkeys do have higher thoughts and even some rules and systems of punishment in their groups for misbehavior. But lower level animals such as the one currently in the White house do not have the brain capacity or social skills to be what we woudl call a moral animal. 🙂

4

Why are people always wanting/needing to humanize all animal life?

I think by example, they are animalizing us

@ScienceBiker How can one get a "tone" from a written word? I respect your participation here in Agnostic and would never consider blocking you or anyone, unless they were threatening me with harm.
I wish you well and success in finding what you are searching for here and in your life.

@ScienceBiker The more film I see of animals online - the more I ponder what is going on with them.

I hope they figure some of this out in my lifetime.

We might have the most speech of any species - but it doesn't mean we have a corner on what goes on in our minds.

The distinction between animals and humans is basically a false dichotomy, an illusion of superiority encouraged by the religious dogma of dominion. It's pretty obvious we are all one thing on one planet. We even share DNA with plants. So I don't understand your question.

3

My cat is a murdorious tourturing asshole.

3

We used to have two dogs (down to one now). They were both buddies with the knuckleheaded black labs next door. Those labs are (still) forever leaving their toys in our yard.

One evening, the labs had left a meaty bone in our front yard.

The next evening, they left another meaty bone in the yard.

I'm pretty sure two young labs don't accidentally leave a juicy bone in the yard of two neighbor dogs and then just as accidentally leave another there the next day...

3

It is my contention that all social animal are cooperaive by nature. Some species have symbiotic relationships with others. This also occrs in the plant world and between kingdoms. The notion of right and wrong is a human concept. In nature behaviour is driven by survival. There are however exceptions. Iread a paper a while ago about rebellious disputes in ant colonies.

3

Maybe elephants. Animals do have emotions and, perhaps, even empathy.

3

Animals have more sense for these things than we know, and often for different reasons than humans. Animals have different ethics and I usually can understand them and get along with them very well. My oldest daughter sleeps with a little dog named Rudy. He adores her, but when I visit he is giving me extra attention. I honestly feel that this little dog knows I am her father. I have no animals of my own right now but get along well with her other animals, including 2 cats. If I take a nap there any number of them might sleep on me.

Animals are better judges of character than humans.

Rudy maybe keeping a watch out on you so you don't harm your daughter, not that you would but try convincing him of that. When somebody comes to my house my boy will follow them around all the time. When I couldn't breathe one day he tried to keep the paramedics away from me, my roomer had a hard time getting him away so that they could revive me.

3

Sure they do, all creatures with a social instinct have a sense of morality even if it's decidedly non-human. Were we not social creatures our intelligence probably would not have developed. If you're part of a pack, or a herd, or a troop then your wellbeing is based in the wellbeing of your group. The nature of that group will determine what feels right and wrong for the individuals in that group. Just like what’s right in the Vatican is different than what’s right in Brazil, they are occupied by different tribes.

2

Elephant graveyards. That's all I can say. They clearly feel something.

2

A lot of various species have displayed their own social “rules” and systems. There are even consequences in these systems for breaking the defined constructs, much like we have.

I think what we think of as morals have developed over time as we evolved- whatever turned out to be best for the species as a whole became our instinctual sense of right and wrong. Though there are variations from culture to culture, many of the basics are the same. It stands to reason animals would have a similar, if less sophisticated, innate sense of shoulds and should nots.

Why would it be less sophisticated? I think most vertebrates probably have very similar emotions, and just as sophisticated innate senses.

2

I love this video. Of course, anyone who has owned more than one kind of pet already knows this. If one pet gets something, they all do.

2

I believe (some) animals have an ethical code (different for each species) but that doesn't necessarily mean defining certain actions as "always right or wrong" as in "morals".
Words are an inexact representation if thought, so it's difficult to explain because language has its limits.
Bonobos have what appears to be a very complex ethics system, including compassion, empathy, etc.
Dogs also seem to be very forgiving in their families (pack, as they see it).
They may veiw some things in light of consequences an action brings (chew the coach, gets disapproval, etc).
There's a lot that could be explored here.

2

Well this is just anectdotal but I have one doberman who is a "closet" sucker.
I can come in a room unaware anything is awry and if I see him doing the slinking thing know he's been sucking on a pillow somewhere. He knows. Verbal reprimands as a puppy NO! NO! NO! were enough to imprint his awareness.

Our old girl had a rock obsession young (I don't play with this, it's dangerous) so until I broke her of it she'd watch the back room window to see if anyone was supervising her fixation for rocks.
/dobermans and their OCD

2

So I am far from an expert on this, but I think there is. Maybe not a right from wrong but an economy of choices. Freekonomics did a delightful podcast about animal economies:
[freakonomics.com]
It goes in depth about how the sucker fish that clean the dead scales and parasites off of other fish essentially set up shop in the reefs. Fish visit the shop 30+ times a day. They give different levels of service based upon how mobile the fish is.

With our current news climate, I have abandoned news. I listen to only podcast now on my commute.

2

Lions, elephants, dolphins seem to have some of these qualities. Then again nature is about the survival of the fittest.

I don't know if that is 100% true - survival of the fittest? I've read wolves care for members who get hurt or old, as do other species.

@jeffy Elephants for sure they mourn their dead the herd works together to save and protect the young. The aunts of an orphan calf will adopt the calf.

2

Interesting question.

1

I remember spraying for roaches when I ws in college. The spray was so close that it knocked one roach on its back. Another roach ran up to it, and tried dragging away from the spray. I was really touched by this. Of course I still gave them all a good spraying anyway.

Was this an example of moral behavior, or just some sort of instinct? There's very little room in a roach's brain for anything but basic survival.

And, really, if we're going to put a fine point on things, is our own behavior also moral, or again more instinct related? How do we measure the difference between the two? "I shall be an honorable person, and help others, because I know that they will then be inclined to help me." vs. "I shall do the right thing, because it is the right thing to do."

The second roach knew roach #1 was a goner, and thought he'd be an easy meal for later.

1

I believe (some) animals have an ethical code (different for each species) but that doesn't necessarily mean defining certain actions as "always right or wrong" as in "morals".
Words are an inexact representation if thought, so it's difficult to explain because language has its limits.
Bonobos have what appears to be a very complex ethics system, including compassion, empathy, etc.
Dogs also seem to be very forgiving in their families (pack, as they see it).
They may veiw some things in light of consequences an action brings (chew the coach, gets disapproval, etc).
There's a lot that could be explored here.

1

Monkeys are very intelligent. I've seen some videos of monkeys solving problems to get food that are quite amazing. I think I would starve in the wild while monkeys easily survive and find food and shelter.

1

I've had dogs all my life, as many as 5 once. It was interesting to observe them socializing with each other.
Watch puppies when they play fight not one gets overly aggressive to do harm, so what stops them, they have to have some sense of whether they go to far or not. I had a Husky one time and she loved ripping paper towels apart, I would just take it away from her and throw it away. Once when I was walking into the garage she was chewing on paper towel again but this time when she saw me she spit it out and scooted over a bit. She looked at me as if to say "what paper". Something was going on in her brain there. Being a dog lover I have more stories to tell but at a later time.

1

Goof question. I am sure that many animals know when they do something other than what is expected from them. But, I am not sure that is a moral judgment.

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